Late yesterday, news dropped that Volkswagen planned to change its name to Voltswagen. A lot of automotive journalists noted the date and called out the announcement as a premature April’s Fool prank, but further reporting seemed to confirm that the name change was indeed real.
Turns out that it really is an April Fool’s prank gone awry.
According to Mike Wayland at CNBC, here’s how it all went down: The unfinished press release leaked yesterday, and when reporters at several outlets, including CNBC, contacted VW, they were told the plans were real and not a prank.
Wayland says that sources within the company seemingly lied to the reporters who were making inquiries. He further reports that VW will release a statement tomorrow clarifying it was all a joke.
Now, there are old journalism maxims that cover this sort of scenario — “trust but verify” and “if your mother says she loves you, check it out” — but they don’t really apply so easily if you can’t source documentation or other means to prove/disprove a source’s claims. In other words, the reporters who queried VW were at the mercy of their sources, and when those sources lied, the press had no way to tell.
No one likes being fooled — and may I note we’re still 48 hours away from the actual April Fool’s Day — so I went back and re-read the press release. Typically, OEMs insert some sort of language as a tell when they write up a fake release, unless the gag is so absurd as to be obvious. The telling language is usually a subtle way of saying “we’re just joking” to any journalist who hasn’t yet had enough caffeine to process a prank. Oft times, it’s a reference to check the date.
This release, however, scans as straightforward. The quotes sound real. The date is March 30, 2021. Nothing about it signals a joke.
Intentionally or not, Volkswagen fooled a lot of people. I am not mad, but I am also not impressed — either VW really did want to change the name and is using April Fool’s as an excuse to back down from a truly dumb idea, or it was a prank all along and handled in the most ham-handed manner. Neither is a good look.
For now, though, it appears the company isn’t changing the name to Voltswagen. We’ll see what fresh twist the saga brings tomorrow.